How can I use baker's yeast instead of sourdough culture?

I've been making a nice" sandwich bread" with a recipe from the King Arthur flour. You make an overnight levain (sourdough culture, flour, water); next day add bakers yeast, flour, water, oil, sugar. Knead, let rise; shape into loaves for pans, let rise; bake.

Since I don't have a sourdough culture, I follow the recipe developer's instructions found in a comment under the recipe: instead of making a levain with culture, water and flour, make a "preferment" using a pinch of baker's yeast, flour and water. Then follow the recipe.

The loaves have consistently been really good, and I'm very pleased with them.

This got me thinking about recipes I've earmarked in "Josey Baker Bread". He has you make a "preferment" with sourdough culture, and then the next day you add flour, water, salt -- whatever -- but no extra bakers yeast.

I'm wondering whether I could make the doughs in Josey Baker Bread but leavened only with a preferment cultured with baker's yeast instead of sourdough culture?

Thank you.

  • Posted by: Ted
  • June 19, 2017


AntoniaJames June 19, 2017
Probably not. Every recipe I've ever seen with a preferment and no levain at all in the recipe has yeast added with the additional flour, salt and water for a reason. You need yeast of some kind - be it commercial or the yeast in a levain -- to make that dough rise. From my experience with yeast-fed preferments, the yeast seems spent by the time you get to the next stage in the process.

I'm interested however in what others have to say about this. I could be wrong.

If you'd like to get a bit more flavor into your bread, consider substituting a few tablespoons of rye flour -- 15 to 20 grams -- for an equal amount by weight of all purpose or any other wheat flour in your recipe.
Ted June 22, 2017
AJ, thank you for your reply. I was hoping others would comment.

I've been thinking about this -- I got to drive for 8 hours yesterday, so lots of time to think -- and the thing that puzzles me is that there are breads that get a long slow rise with a single infusion of baker's yeast: think of "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" by Hertzberg and Francois or Peter Reinhart's slow rise breads in "Artisan Breads Everyday". My experience is with the Reinhart's book and have had great success (IMO) with the recipes. His recipes have a good amount of yeast in them; spend their rise hours in the fridge. And there's lots of rise when the doughs are panned and plenty of oven spring. The yeasts don't fizzle out during their time in the fridge.

I've read (somewhere) that the reason the yeasts fizzle out when you do an overnight preferment, requiring you to add more yeast when you make the dough is that all the yeast's food has been used up. That doesn't make sense to me either, since when you make the dough your'e adding plenty more flour. So perhaps all the yeast in the preferment would die off, and there's none remaining to ferment the dough.

Lots of wondering in my mind...

Thank you again for your reply.
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